Dockyard Garden A stone-built dock constructed at the same time as the Port of Yokohama
A symbol of Yokohama, restored to its original condition
Yokohama Landmark Tower came into existence as the new symbol of Yokohama. At the foot of the tower is the Dockyard Garden. This is a reconstruction of the “No. 2 Dock of the Former Yokohama Dock Company”, the oldest stone-built commercial dock in Japan, and has been recognized as a nationally designated Important Cultural Property (photo 1). Incidentally, the No.1 Dock is at the Nippon Maru Memorial Park.
The Minato Mirai 21 site was expanded through land reclamation works on the empty lot vacated by the move of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Yokohama shipyard. Apparently, the dock of the shipyard happened to be in the exact same place as Yokohama Landmark Tower.
By the way, if you don’t know exactly what a dock is for, let me briefly explain. A dock is a facility made for ships to be built and repaired, temporarily moored, and for cargo to be loaded and unloaded. So, the fact that there was a dock here was a spectacle that could only be seen in this port city of Yokohama. It was built in 1896, and played an important role as a harbor facility for around 70 years, until it ceased operation in 1973. Many people could not bear the idea of demolishing this dock that had carried out such an important duty, and called for it to be preserved. Thus, to coincide with the opening of Yokohama Landmark Tower in 1993, the dock’s location was moved slightly and it was restored to its original condition. A happy ending.
The 19th and 21st centuries in coexistence
The Dockyard Garden is connected to Yokohama Landmark Tower, and is located in the tower’s B1 and B2 sub-level floors. You can visit it via the B2 floor.
Looking up at the Dockyard Garden, it is first of all, massive. Its dimensions are around 107m in total length, 29m in width (at the top), and around 10m in depth (or, when seen from the bottom, should that be height?). Whole ships used to come into this space. Incidentally, the original total length was 128m, but it was apparently scaled down during the restoration works.
Furthermore, when you look to the south, the Yokohama Landmark Tower stands loftily above; the contrast between the modern buildings and the stone-built Dockyard is interesting (photo 2). There is a tangible coexistence between the 19th and 21st centuries here.
The dark stones that surround the whole area are the original materials, said to have been mined from Manazuru in Kanagawa Prefecture. Apparently, these were also used in the stone wall of Edo Castle (photo 3). The facility was undergoing maintenance works when I visited, and details of a contemporary survey were described on an information plate.
According to the information plate, the construction of the dock was different from traditional Japanese stone-building techniques such as those seen in castle walls. It was meticulously designed, incorporating Western techniques, and is a structure from the earliest years of the history of modern civil engineering technology. With approximately 12,000 bricks in total, each stone was individually checked, assigned a number, then an inspection was carried out; the bricks were temporarily stored in another district, then finally laid back in their original place.
To untrained eyes such as mine, it simply looks like a pile of bricks (sorry), but each brick was subject to a painstaking survey process.
Elsewhere, on the opposite side of Yokohama Landmark Tower, there is an information panel about the gate that separates the dock from the sea (photos 4, 5).
One more aspect of enjoying the Dockyard Garden is the feeling of scale.
The entire Dockyard Garden can be viewed through the glass walls of the office lobby on the third floor of Yokohama Landmark Tower (photo 6). This is different from observing it from down below – it looks like a model.
There is a metal nameplate installed here, which was apparently found when the dock was being dismantled. It is thought to have been buried at the start of the original construction work. The nameplate, discovered under a slab made of the tip of batholithic rock, is titled “In Commemoration of the Groundbreaking Ceremony” and also has a list of names of the directors of Yokohama Dock Co. Ltd. (later to become Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Yokohama shipyard).
Today, this richly historical Dockyard Garden is used as a space for events and interpersonal communication. Around 100 events are held annually. In particular, the evening illuminations envelope the Dockyard Garden in a romantic mood.
This is an Important Cultural Property which you can enjoy by listening to music, eating lunch outside on a sunny day, or anything else that takes your fancy.
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